‘Encouraged’ nudity grounds for harassment?

On August 27th, employees at Lush stores across the country and overseas were "encouraged" to come to work nude to protest the overpackaging of so many consumer goods.

From a Lush press release -
New York, NY – Wearing nothing but aprons reading “ASK ME WHY I’M NAKED”, employees of LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics will lead a cheeky protest urging shoppers to go ‘naked’ by purchasing products free of packaging. The brave shop workers will educate passers-by on the devastating environmental impact of packaged goods sold in cosmetic shops, supermarkets, and other retailers.

Could encouraging your employees to come to work in the nude be considered harassment? It depends.

One attorney I spoke to asked if it were a quid pro quo situation ... (in other words, were their jobs connected to participation in the nude workday?)

At this point, I have no way of knowing if their job was directly dependent upon participation. But there are more subtle forms of quid pro quo harassment than an outright demand which could push someone into participating because of perceived risks of refusing. Peer pressure or culture of compliance on the job are also powerful tools for "forcing" someone to go along.

The event could also be considered a subtle form of sexual harassment, if it created a sexually charged or hostile environment. Characteristics would of this would include:
  • unfulfilled threats to impose a sexual quid pro quo;
  • discussing sexual activities;
  • telling off-color jokes;
  • unnecessary touching;
  • commenting on physical attributes;
  • displaying sexually suggestive pictures;
  • using demeaning or inappropriate terms, such as "Babe";
  • using indecent gestures;
  • granting job favors to those who participate in consensual sexual activity;
  • using crude and offensive language.
Would encouraging nakedness at work fall into a sexual activity category? It would seem that it could be so. If displaying sexually suggestive pictures is harassment, wouldn't nudity in the workplace be even a step beyond that?

What are your thoughts on it?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you'd be shocked to know that they had a planned stunt at the June 2008 Manager's meeing in Scottsdale where a male employee streaked FULL FRONTAL NUDITY through the meeting as they prepared to discuss this upcoming event.

As one of the only straight men in the company (at that time), I was horified and felt very much objectified. To me, it is no diferent then a company dominated by men (with a few women) hiring a stripper.

But what do you expect from a company with no Human Resources Department?!?


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